In collaboration with its higher education affiliates, NYSUT is escalating pressure on the State Education Department to reconsider its implementation of edTPA — Educative Teacher Performance Assessment — a critical new test that has the potential to make or break future teachers' careers.
"SED's rush to implement edTPA unfortunately parallels its hasty and problematic implementation of Common Core," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. "It ignores the reality that faculty and students need time to prepare. As with Common Core, SED is refusing to heed the voice of the practitioner."
The edTPA was developed at Stanford University to gauge student teachers' readiness for the classroom.
Requirements for the three-part edTPA include a portfolio built from the student teaching experience, and a videotape of the student teacher in the classroom. Future teachers must pay a $300 fee for edTPA, in addition to another $300 for other required tests. A passing score on the edTPA is required for anyone applying for an initial certificate in New York on or after May 1.
The deadline has created crushing pressure on students and higher education faculty and staff in teacher preparation programs.
Last year, NYSUT and its higher education leaders demanded that SED slow down, listen and respond to the concerns of educators and convinced SED to delay implementation of edTPA by a year.
"The evidence is clear that additional time is still needed to prepare students for the major change that edTPA entails," Neira said. "SED refuses to listen."
At one campus where the exam was offered this year, for example, nine of the 18 students who took it failed the assessment.
It's not just SED's timeline that has been problematic. From the perspective of faculty governance, NYSUT's higher education leaders consider the imposition of edTPA into the curriculum an inappropriate interference with what should be an internal decision on course content at individual teacher preparation programs.
The edTPA is one of several concerns about new mandates on teacher preparation programs identified by NYSUT's Teacher and School Leader Preparation Workgroup, formed two years ago under Neira's direction in response to SED's introduction of major changes to teacher prep requirements.
The workgroup, which includes higher education leaders, teacher preparation faculty and K-12 members who work with student teachers, supports high standards in teacher prep programs to well equip the next generation of educators.
But as NYSUT has repeatedly made clear to SED — through position papers, letters and in-person advocacy — standards and assessments for future teachers must be done right.
"Teacher candidates who are currently seniors and must pass the edTPA for an initial teaching certificate are at a great disadvantage," Neira wrote in a recent letter to King.
"They have not received the in-depth preparation they need to ensure success on this rigorous and complex assessment, nor have they had adequate time to develop and practice the skills before being assessed on them. Under these flawed conditions, scores from edTPA's early implementers cannot be deemed valid, nor should they be considered a fair evaluation of teacher preparation programs."
As a result, NYSUT is asking Education Commissioner John King Jr. to withhold publishing the test data on institutional profiles for the 2013-15 academic years.
Parents of future teachers are also deeply concerned, said Tom Pinto of Westchester County, whose son, a physical education major at SUNY Brockport, faces the edTPA assessment this spring. A failing score on all or part of the edTPA could hinder a student's plans for graduate school as well as a job search.
"Some graduate programs require you to be precertified for admission," Pinto said. "So all of this is so rushed, and is creating obstacles for the very individuals the state should be commending for becoming teachers."
Pinto expressed his concerns in a letter to King and the Board of Regents. Despite good follow-up conversations with Regent Harry Phillips III and John D'Agati, deputy commissioner for higher education at SED, Pinto has yet to hear of any changes to the implementation date.
NYSUT's two largest higher education affiliates — United University Professions and the Professional Staff Congress — are outspoken in their criticism of edTPA, which they see as an intrusion into academic freedom and faculty governance and the traditional role of faculty in the development of curriculum.
"UUP's leaders will press the Legislature and Board of Regents to demand that SED remove edTPA as a requirement for teacher certification and develop a new edTPA implementation plan," said UUP President Fred Kowal. The union represents 35,000 academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York.
"Up to 40 percent of students in teacher preparation programs who will graduate this May are expected to fail edTPA and be denied teaching certification because SED has refused to heed the advice of experienced educators who have persistently expressed concerns about this poorly planned and implemented high-stakes test."
Members of the PSC, which represents 25,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York, adopted a resolution that opposes the "rushed implementation" of edTPA, and urges further discussion of the assessment before it is implemented.
"We are committed to the best possible education for New York's future teachers," said PSC President Barbara Bowen.
"We cannot in good conscience support assessment systems like edTPA that diminish the quality of their education, narrowly define the preparation of teacher candidates and turn authority over to for-profit corporations."
The reference to "for-profit" corporations refers to the educational testing company Pearson, which is involved in the delivery system and scoring of edTPA in New York state.
NYSUT, PSC and UUP will continue to speak out about the edTPA, and press for changes. If nothing changes, union leaders said the issue could hamper recruitment and retention of the next generation of teachers.
"SED needs to get this one right," Neira wrote to King, "Our students deserve that guarantee."
FOR MORE INFO
NYSUT members can learn more about edTPA and NYSUT's call for a delayed start by going to the websites for NYSUT at www.nysut.org; UUP at www.uupinfo.org; or the PSC at www.psc-cuny.org. Links to fact sheets, testimony, calls for action and other information can be found by entering edTPA and NYSUT, UUP or PSC in the search boxes at the top of each website.